New ant genus named after DESY

Researchers spot previously unknown extinct ant in 20 million-years-old amber

An international team of scientists led by Friedrich Schiller University Jena has identified a previously unknown extinct ant in a unique piece of African amber about 20 million years old. The team used DESY’s X-ray light source PETRA III to examine the critical fossil remains from 13 individual animals at a specialised measuring station operated by Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon and realised that these could not be attributed to any known species. The new species even establishes a completely new genus of primordial ants, as the scientists from the Universities of Jena, Rennes (France) and Gdansk (Poland) as well as from Hereon report in the scientific journal Insects. The new genus was named after DESY, the new species after Hereon: With the scientific name †Desyopone hereon gen. et sp. nov., the discoverers honour the two research institutions, which had contributed significantly to this discovery with modern imaging methods.

“It is a great honour that DESY is the namesake of the new primordial ant genus,“ emphasises Christian Schroer, Leading Scientist of PETRA III at DESY. “And we are delighted that we can provide the brilliant X-ray light for such top-class research with our facility.” PETRA III is a particle accelerator that sends fast electrons on slalom paths, where they emit highly focused X-ray light that can be used to study the finest details of a wide variety of samples.

Read more on the DESY website

Image: Magnified (about 100,000 fold) representation of the extinct ant in a glass block in the Hereon measuring station at DESY’s X-ray light source PETRA III, where the original had been studied.

Credit: DESY, Marta Mayer